The Africa Mercy has been docked in Cameroon for 3 months, in which time our volunteer surgical team has performed over 650 life-changing operations! Thanks to caring donors and volunteers, patients like12-year-old Ulrich’s lives have been truly transformed.
Ulrich arrived on the Africa Mercy with backward facing legs. Despite the daily challenges caused by his condition, Ulrich enjoys school, where his favorite school subject is mathematics. He has 5 siblings and dreams of becoming a journalist because he “likes being able to ask lots of questions”. Sadly, as Ulrich grows older he faces huge challenges in his daily life that could greatly limit his ability to make his dream come true.
Ulrich (Junior), before surgery.
Wanting to give their son the future he deserves, Ulrich’s parents inquired at a local handicap centre about surgery to fix his legs but were told it would cost them thousands of dollars – an impossible expense for the family. All they could do was pray that help would come to their son…then they heard that the Africa Mercy was coming to Cameroon.
When Ulrich was brought to see our screening team, his condition was one of the most severe orthopaedic problems our volunteer nurses had ever seen. Thankfully, volunteer surgeons were confident they could help, and Urlich was admitted to the Africa Mercy.
Ulrich standing without his crutches at the hope center
Now, Ulrich has had multiple surgeries to fix his legs and is on his way to a full recovery! He is now looking forward to playing football and fetching water for his mother like the other boys do.
“When I would walk in the street people would stare at me. Now they will look at me with a different look. Before they thought I was just a handicapped person and they treated me differently. Now they will look again!”
We can’t wait to see the amazing things still to come during our field service!
It can be an unglamorous, challenging time to volunteer as there is no patient interaction and the experience is much different from volunteering onboard during field service, but the work is just as vital.
Patients could not be helped without the contribution of volunteers during the shipyard phase.
What went through your mind when you walked up the Africa Mercy’s gangway for the first time?
It was the dry dock gangway, I had just flown for over 24 hours. I was worried about having a hernia carrying my bags up all the stairs.
Tell us about your time on the ship, what gave you strength – what took it away?
While I was on the ship for 2 short months the management staff changed three times. This was incredibly difficult and frustrating as everyone had their own way of doing things. The fact that I had weekends off gave me strength from this.
Were you ever burned out – why? What helped you to recover?
The weekend that I had to clean the entire ship on my own because we had no day crew. To be honest it’s a miracle I did recover.
Was there a song/singer/band etc. that got you through your time of service?
Talk to us about what it’s like to transition back home. What has been a joy? What has been difficult?
Missing the cohesive community of the ship, it is much easier to be one’s self on the Africa Mercy, other than that I have loved coming home to see my family and close friends.
What is it really like living on a hospital ship?
What would you tell someone who is thinking to apply to serve with Mercy Ships Canada?
Go for it, the trip has ups and downs but in the long run, it’s worth it and it’s an uncommon opportunity.
Share your favorite quote or some words of wisdom with us!
“If not us, who? If not now, when? – JFK
Do you have any Africa Mercy hacks you can share with us?
Make 2-minute showers last longer by turning off the water when using the soap/ shampoo, make a clothesline in your room to dry your towel. Find a group of people to do the dancing with the stars workout videos on movie night with, it’s hilarious and totally worth it.
The Africa Mercy had a special visitor this past week, our President and Founder, Don Stephens! Don, who founded Mercy Ships back in 1978, greeted crew, enjoyed time on the wards and even decorated some casts up on deck seven 🙂
“Coming back to the ship feeds my inner being. Seeing the transformation in these patients is truly wonderful and it gets to me every time. But I also love coming to see the crew! It’s so encouraging to see 30 different nationalities come together for one common purpose.”
Don Stephens, President/Founder, signing the cast of Maeva who had her bowed legs.
Interested in learning more about Don? Watch the video below!
On Saturday, September 30th, 7 Teams in Victoria, Vancouver, Langley, Calgary and London walked and rode in the annual Ride for Refuge in support of Mercy Ships.
Our largest team was the Credo Cubs led by Team Captain Alyson Winkelaar from Credo Christian School in Langley. They had an amazing 26 members and raised over $4,200. Some our youngest riders came from that group too – with over 5 three-year-olds participating!
To all who rode from 10-50 km and to those who walked 5 km – our deepest thanks for helping us provide free surgeries and transformational healing to the people of Cameroon!